You’ll see him at lunchtime, strolling the temperature-controlled halls of the skywalk.

He dons a backpack full of brochures to restock the take-out shelves and brandishes a rag, battling teen mischief one wipe at a time.

Moving quickly, his feet carry him through familiar twists and turns. His mind is interested in circulation patterns, cataloging ideas for digital displays, billboard advertisements, elevator skins and floor graphics. He offers a wave or a nod to passers-by.

This is Skywalk Joe’s domain. These are his people.

And after two years of struggle and hardship, he is ready to emerge from the hard hitting COVID fog. Instantly, really. “Bam, hard stop,” says Joe Stasi, the man behind the alter ego.

Stasi – the only person who sells ads in closed gateway – left corporate radio sales in 2012 to run the Skywalk business for the family marketing company, MediaUSA. He was looking for something he could call his own, he said.

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“Before, I loved setting up radio campaigns and clients, when they got a tangible return on their investment, I loved that feeling. It was euphoric for me,” he says. “When I do that here, it’s even more euphoric because it’s my baby.”

“I love being Skywalk Joe. No one else in the whole city can say that.

Joe Stasi stands for a photo in the downtown Des Moines walkway, Tuesday, March 8, 2022.

In just a few years, Stasi has built a client list through hustle and word-of-mouth, increasing sales by over $500,000 and securing regular annual bookings for over 80% of its space. advertising. The pitch was simple: Advertisement with Skywalk Joe was a cost-effective way to have close, personal interactions with professionals between the ages of 25 and 54, most of whom earn over $75,000 a year and own their homes.

The Stasi wore its second hat – Radio Joe – as the voice of the Iowa Barnstormers when COVID reached its tentacles for the first time in its life. Just 10 minutes after then-President Trump declared the pandemic a national emergency, that night’s game against Oakland was called off. The whole season would soon be too.

Back in Des Moines, the Skywalk had gone from bustling to bare.

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Being part of a small business meant Skywalk Joe could help customers with a few days extension on bills, give them some wiggle room here or there. But they would pause billing for six months, eventually suspending payment for a year. The Stasi took a three-month leave.

But the Stasi is the type to drink a glass half full. He spent the time refocusing, recharging. He had been brought up with hard work in his veins. His father, Pete, came to Oelwein from Italy when he was 8 years old. Crossing the Atlantic for three weeks, he lost his twin brother to dysentery.

And as a young adult, Stasi spent nights he wasn’t on the football field or the baseball field throwing plates at his uncle’s restaurant, Luigi’s.

“Perseverance, determination, patience,” he says. “I always put my nose to the grindstone and try to be positive as much as possible.”

Joe Stasi stands for a photo in front of some of the advertising he sells in the downtown Des Moines walkway, Tuesday, March 8, 2022.

When by MediaUSA work resumed, they brought back the Stasi. He refined his pitch, made a new sales kit. And he returned to the Skywalk.

“We looked at all the different locations that probably won’t be as busy as they once were, and we moved the signs out of those areas,” he says. “We placed them in condensed areas like the partnership building, the YMCA, and at Fifth and Keo.”

Stasi inquiries are on the rise, near pre-COVID levels now. And in the coming weeks, most major downtown businesses will bring employees back in a hybrid fashion.

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Traffic is coming back in waves and waves, he says. Just try driving downtown at 4:30 p.m. or strolling the Skywalk at lunchtime, and you’ll see.

In the realm of Skywalk Joe, what was once bare is alive again.

Courtney Crowder, the Register’s Iowa columnist, can often be found trying out a new offering in the Skywalk’s Local Bites food court or a yellow curry at JJ Jasmine Thai. Join her at [email protected] or 515-284-8360. Follow her on Twitter @courtneycare.

Our Des Moines

Our Des Moines is a weekly feature about an interesting person, place, or event in metro Des Moines, the kind of gems that make central Iowa special. Any idea for this series? Contact [email protected]